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Alms November 19, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, Chain story, e-books, movies & TV, nostalgia, science fiction, sense of wonder, serial fiction, VIPub, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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Every now and then I put in this plea. I make my living as a writer, selling my work. To you, dear friends, and others who don’t know me at all. This past week has been hectic since I have been unable to work regularly because of jury duty (and I thought the plots on CSI were far-fetched!). This will run another couple weeks, taking me away from my most productive time at lithe keyboard.

So, humor me. Keep the cats from considering me as food since I couldn’t afford to feed them. Buy something from my store, from Kindle
or Nook or from the other fine venues peddling my stuff. It won’t cost you much and you will get lots of enjoyment in return. More than paying an exorbitant ticket price for a 3D movie.

If you can’t part with a buck or two right now, there is someone you can do to help out. It’ll take just a moment. Go to Amazon or B&N and leave a review. Goodreads is a fine place to mention my work, too. Others see reviews and rely on them. A Career Guide To Your Job in Hell has some fine reviews on it. Toss in a few more if you like the collection. Even put reviews up on my website. I might be inclined to run a contest offering a few dollars off coupons for the top reviews. Doesn’t have to be hyperbolic or even good, but give me a review. But if it is bad, I might turn lachrymose or even suicidal. And then the cats would starve after they finished picking the flesh from my bones.

Your call.

Hot Rail to Hell

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Insamley Different November 18, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, Chain story, fantasy, ideas, movies & TV, science fiction, serial fiction, steampunk, VIPub, westerns, writing.
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In the old pulp magazine days, it was claimed that there was so little difference between sf and westerns that you could find stories about the rangers heading the outlaws off at the pass…and the same story rewritten to read that the space rangers headed off the bug eyed monsters at the galactic rift. Maybe true. Probably true.

But whether it happened it shows the connection between westerns and sf. Action. Adventure. Derring-do. This carries over to present day and how the same techniques might be used to market westerns and sf. Give this blog from Jim Clay a read. Serial westerns. Action. Adventure. Good reading. And it is exactly what Mike Stackpole, I and others have been saying is an effective VIPub technique.

Give the story out one chapter at a time. Episodic fiction. Archive it for people who don’t want to wait for the next thrilling episode. Or maybe get 75% of the way through and publish the entire piece for a couple bucks while slowly putting up the remaining episodes for free. Want to finish before the end of the month? Buy it now. Will this work? The only way to see is to try it. No harm, no foul since nobody is getting miffed because you have failed to publish it all.

Serialized fiction can build anticipation but you have to leave every chapter with a cliffhanger. Remember the old Republic serials? Gene was always being chased by the Thunder Riders from Murania or in danger of losing Radio Ranch and having to sing before the radium thieves stop him. Or the Copperhead’s car was going over the cliff. Or the robots were attacking and the door to his super-secret lab was locked. You get the idea. Leave the reader/viewer with a reason to come back. It works. At least it always worked for me.

Others do similar things. Check out James Reasoner’s (and Bill Crider’s and…who else?) more ambitious Rancho Diablo. And maybe the poster child for this is Lee Goldberg’s Dead Man books. Those are longer (novel length) work but the idea is the same. You want to get more of the character, to find out what new and horrific challenge will be faced and how he/she/it escapes? This is the heart and soul of serial

“After I pulled myself off the poisoned spikes at the bottom of the pit before the tiger ate me, I climbed the glass slick walls to escape in time to rescue the Princess of Mars!”

A Space Islands story

Wrapping Up November 6, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, Chain story, conventions, e-books, food, geocaching, iPad, iPhone, movies, science fiction, serial fiction, steampunk, VIPub, writing.
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Odds and ends. First off, today’s the centennial of Roy Rogers’ birth. The King of the Cowboys.

Next is my website being down. Think it might have gotten hacked. Guru Leif has been informed and will see if it can’t get back into action ASAP. Or at least RSN.

One benefit of face to face meetings such as at World Fantasy Convention, is brainstorming. Or maybe that’s barnstorming. Mike Stackpole, Nathan Long and I got together and have plans brewing with a potential launch on a brand new project come January. And not satisfied with this, Mike’s come up with another project playing off the successful Chain Story concept. Working idea is heroic fantasy and killer stuff. That’ll develop and be a couple months later than the aforementioned steampunk project. The benefit of WFC (or any other con) is tossing out an idea, having it turned over and inside out and revised and added to and subtracted from and coming up with a synthesis better than any of the people involved could have come up with alone. Writing may be a solitary profession but group effort pays off now and then, especially in these days of VIPub. Pooling talent and information is so necessary.

Also at WFC, I got the chance to do some geocaching, with Alice Henderson as well as on my own. I’d bought my android smartphone in June with an eye toward using it with Square to accept credit cards for my book sales. The more I use the phone, the more things I find to do with it. Reading ebooks isn’t as easy as on my iPad but it can be done. The 3G connectivity I lack on the iPad comes in quite handy, though. I can’t say this is a tool for any writer but it is proving useful. I put on the geocaching app and found it quirky but adequate for the task. That sums up the other apps, too. At one time it struck me as peculiar to use a cell phone to call someone who was only across the room–but it is less so now. The sheer immensity of bouncing a signal off a tower, maybe going to a geosynchronous satellite and then back is so….stfnal. Great for getting in touch with people, especially on a 40 acre hotel site such as WFC’s this year. And with internet google capability, factoids can be summoned up fast (as well as maps, restaurants and all the rest of things con goers need).

This is what I found about Angels Flight in LA. And am I wrong thinking this was used in a terrible movie of the great Lawrence Block book 8 Million Ways to Die?

World's shortest railroad

Blind Squirrels and that Elusive Acorn September 5, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, Chain story, e-books, fantasy, ideas, VIPub, writing.
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Or maybe that ought to be stupid determination? Dogged? No reason to be either blind or stupid about ways of getting your ebooks noticed. But it’s a hard job because there is so much competition. I’ve written on this before. Never give up. Never stop. But what is it you shouldn’t stop doing? Here are a few more thoughts.

Gary Vaynerchuk
has been mentioned here before about his book Crush It! and The Thank You Economy.

Judith sent along a comment on yesterday’s blog about a UK fantasy writer who is selling her short stories by subscription. An interesting idea (and one kicked around by a bunch of us). I’m not as sold on that as I am other ideas. Why not just post on Kindle and all the other usual suspects? The subscription problem, as I see it, is that of bookkeeping. Who has paid? How do you increase circulation? This might work for an online magazine, of which there are many, but as Dean Wesley Smith has pointed out numerous times, a better way of promotion is to produce more stories. The time spent bookkeeping ought to go into book writing. But the joy of VIPub is trying things to see what works. This might work spectacularly for one writer and not another. It may well be that subscriptions will sell more. Try it and see. The worst that can happen is that it isn’t as successful as we’d all hope.

Mike Stackpole started the Chain Story as a way of getting work noticed. It is the #3 search item for people getting to my website. Go on, check out my contribution, “White Fur.” I dare you. And it’s free. Just click on the “chain story” link.

Coupled with the idea of regularity (as in the subscription idea) is one of *having* to do a short story a month. That’s a lot of pressure, especially if other projects intrude. I’ve got an idea to circumvent that problem and keep the readers coming back regularly. A stalwart band of 5 other writers and I will begin a monthly e-post (Kindle and the usual suspects) of stories set in a steampunk universe. Empires of Steam and Rust. Nathan Long has done a nifty logo for the series. My personal time has been vacuumed away the past month so I am late in launching this. I hope to begin it in a couple months, certainly aiming at a January ‘12 inaugural.

The benefit to the writer is obvious. We only have to do a couple stories a year, yet there will be stories in the series every month. The reader benefits on several fronts. Solid stories in a developing serial universe and the expectation that a new story will be along every month.

I haven’t read the book in the trailer below, but I suspect I will. Larry J. Martin is an excellent western writer and comes up with dynamite book trailers. What he has to say about Internet book marketing might well be more important for us than what Vaynerchuk says since it is more directed to our readers, our markets, the peculiarities of writing as a profession.

Web and Net March 11, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in Chain story, ideas, VIPub, Wild West, writing.
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VIPub gives the author a lot of ways to spread the word, to get eyeballs on posted work, to enlist new readers. Mike Stackpole and Jeff Mariotte came up with the idea of the chain story to showcase writers’ work. The idea is simple enough. Post a free story set in a mythical adventurer’s club, then link it fore and aft with other stories with a simple connection. This has generated a lot of interest and the chain is more than 20 links long now. (See my entry here.)

I suspect I will do more stories with these characters, but if I don’t the story is still out there poking and prodding people to come take a look if they have read other links in the chain.

But chains are only one way of marketing. Net is another. Cast wide and pull in a lot of interest. Viral marketing is an example.

But these are not new. Consider an Old West town with a telegraph line coming in. A message clicks and the telegrapher decodes it (the linear chain brings in sequential information). Then he tells everyone he can and they tell their neighbors–the single message has gone viral. A network. Which is better? Obviously one depends on the other, but for the purpose of VIPub we need to look at the chain first.

We are the linear input. Finding ways of making that single datum, that one story, go viral is a matter of lots of work, connections and readers’ interest.

Pebbles in the pond, a review on Amazon or B&N, twitter, FB, each is the starting point–the first link of the chain. And through each is generated an ever-expanding (we hope) network of interest.

Word of mouth has changed in the digital age. Or you can draw a parallel between secutor vs retiarus. Do you lunge linear or cast wide? Ans: both.

broadcast it!

Bits and Pieces and Lights in the Sky October 22, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in cats, Chain story, e-books, movies & TV, VIPub, weird news, writing.
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UFO sightings tend to go in cycles. Sometimes none for a long time (post 9/11 saw a minimum, it seems) but now they are picking up again. One over China.; One over NYC in broad daylight. And one caught very nicely on video in El Paso. Terri, my stalwart correspondent in El Paso, says it was a nighttime drop of a crack parachute team. Not sure if it was for a show, but it would seem not or the word would have gone out. This might be something like our past idiot mayor tried with a string of intensely bright lights along Sandia Crest’s ridgeline to advertise the city’s tricentennial. Mostly it stirred up things then with the lying TV and news media saying they knew nothing about it and then was ignored during the actual celebration. I think. I don’t really remember much of the celebration. Nor does anyone else, but I bet a lot of politicians’ bank accounts were feathered nicely.

But there are other news items that make me struggle to figure out the reasoning. A guy up in northern NM was just sentenced to 8 yrs for killing his dog. The dog bit somebody so he decided to kill it. He tried to cut its throat with a knife but couldn’t do it (I think it was a pit bull so the musculature might have been pretty heavy). He said he wanted to shoot the dog but since he was a convicted felon couldn’t own a gun, so he used a chainsaw. The thought processes going on here defeat me–but I wish he’d gotten more than 8 years, which is more than most murderers of humans get in this state. This guy is so dangerously whacked out he ought to be up the river for ever.

The lack of depth in news reporting these days is fascinating to observe. Water conservation limits were smashed–proof we are wasting water. But the water main not a mile from my house broke, spewed thousands if not millions of gallons of water and dug a 15′ deep hole (this while I was in Ruidoso–water to house was shut off for 2 days and my son said he had to give the cats bottled water. They now insist on Evian…) The break went on for hours and hours until they could turn off the feeder (this is under a major–the major–intersection in the area). No mention of how this break might have affected the overage was reported.

New story at the Chain Story Project.

Silly stuff at Cheese Magnet.

Not only have I finished the rewrite on God of War 2, my first three titles are posted on the new Barnes & Noble Nook e-book site. To Demons Bound, Moonlight in the Meg and Hammer & Fangs.

Find your nook, snuggle into a cranny and read one of them!

The Need To Slip The Shackles September 12, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in Chain story, conventions, e-books, fantasy, iPad, VIPub, westerns, writing.
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Every now and then I need to escape from my computer and get out into the real world. Or as real as it can be populated with Lady Gaga and her ilk. Getting out to the Centennial Tom Swift Convention was a great break. I enjoyed it and thought my presentation there went well, even if I didn’t have PowerPoint or other visual aids (why do I always cringe at the term “visual aids”? Because “marital aids” is so similar?)

A few weeks later I crept out to Bubonicon and enjoyed it more than ever. Maybe because I had become such a recluse working on God of War 2. That was gobbling up my time something fierce, and is now approaching completion, stage 1 and will be sent off by this coming Wednesday’s due date. But there’s a ton of work to piled up even after this is sent on its merry electronic way with new iPad and Kindle postings, short stories I’ve promised for the Chain Story Project which has a couple new entries, btw. Jean Rabe and Steve Sullivan are doing another Blue Kingdoms collection I’d like to be part of but don’t know if I can yet (because I promised a story to a Phil Farmer appreciation anthology and want to do another Space Islands story).

Then there are 2 more westerns to get started, plus a “Jackson Lowry”short I want to post on that site prior to the release of Sonora Noose. But I have another chance to slip free of my computerized bonds and meet a different group of people. Through the good graces of Ollie Reed and the WWA I’ll be one of 5 writers talking at the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium. Melody Groves, Don Bullis, John Duncklee and one other designated writer to be named for later draft will also be there. A stellar crew. Spur winner, a guy who knows more about NM law enforcement than about anyone, the president of the Southwest Writers and rodeo queen. A great group. We’ll be overshadowed by Larry Gatlin and the rodeo and other things cowboyish but this is a great opportunity to…escape.

Writers ought to …escape…now and then to take a break from the words marching across the screen and deadlines. At least I do.

How Do You Know? September 5, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in Chain story, conventions, e-books, fantasy, ideas, iPad, VIPub, web & computers, writing.
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Leonard ‘s comment a couple days ago got me thinking on this. Try as you might with all the various PR gimmicks and campaigns and stunts (the latest attempt at viral marketing has a car speeding through a red light–the red light camera shot 4 pictures, most of which are filled with lumbering zombies. Or is shamble the accepted term?) Do you have to break the law to get eyeballs on your work? How do you know what increased sales for your product are a result?

Things I have tried that don’t work: I had mentioned the freebie code for my e-store that would let any user nab a free book. No takers out of over 600 copies of the Bubonicon 42 program book being distributed. Naively, I thought this would get me some customers. Can’t give it away takes on new meaning. This tells me print, or at least one time print, ads don’t work. That goes to what Pari said about consistency, perhaps. Run ads, do them for a long time to get people used to seeing them.

I also had an ad a few years back in a publication distributed at the Albq Balloon Fiesta. Half a million potential eyeballs, assuming they are peering through one eye at that ad. Increased traffic on my website? Couldn’t tell but my guess is zero. Perhaps hot air balloon enthusiasts and sf fans don’t overlap? With a couple years hindsight, a single ad hyping a story about balloons or zeppelins would have been more effective. Maybe. Target the audience better. Check.

What has worked: The Chain Story Project. has been effective. Immediately after my first story, traffic to my website markedly increased. When I can get clear and have time to do it, I’ll have another story to post there. (A new Rigel Ailur story is up, btw).

This blog has drawn an inordinate amount of traffic from specific words. I won’t use them again since they were not what this is about and were originally used in passing but for whatever reason those words are huge SEO targets. Check my iPad blogs for a hint what I’m talking about.

Need to look into: figuring out why/if Twitter would get people to notice my fiction. Ditto with Facebook and MySpace. I’m there, they’re fun, but I don’t generate the immense traffic it’s claimed can be brought in.

So what works? Definitely a work in progress.

Coming soon: Choose Your Own Corpse Mystery

VIPub at Bubonicon September 1, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in Chain story, contest, conventions, e-books, ideas, movies & TV, podcast, sci-fi, Second Life, VIPub, web & computers, writing.
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Saturday saw a quick seminar with Pari Noskin Taichert talking on ways to promote and advertise and me holding form on e-publishing. The differences between POD and e-books was addressed but having only 20 min (each), everything was highly condensed. If you’ve read my blog for very long, and if not for shame!, then you know what I had to say about e-publishing.

Here’s what Pari had to say about getting your work noticed. She’s a former (for 20 years) PR media type who found true love writing mysteries. Go figure. Who’d give that up (or being a physicist) to just, you know, write? 😉

Two elements are necessary to keep in your PR cross hairs:
1) consistency. You need a single simple message and to keep at it. Call it branding or simply presenting the same face to the public, you can’t be all over the place. I see this as something of a problem since I do westerns as well as f & sf. Mysteries, too. Concentrating on just one would be best. Multiple contact is needed to reinforce your presence, your very existence. A single isn’t going to work. There has to be a lot of them, all saying the same thing: look at me, I have something you really really want. (I put in a discount code in the Bubonicon 42 Program Book–distribution, over 600. Response. Zero. Luckily it cost me nothing but I know this type of ad isn’t working. I have more hope for the e-mail addresses gathered at the Golden Reflections panel).

2) use the 2 or 3 promotional techniques you like most. If you like to go to the mat getting newspaper coverage, do it. Or TV. Or radio. There’s podcasting. Social networking like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs. Second Life. Website. (You really need a website. If you can’t handle that, hire it out.) You own online store. Book trailers. Ads. Autographings. Book tours. Promo items like bookmarks and posters, maybe author trading cards to autograph for the e-book readers. Newsgroups like Bryant Street. Con appearances. Speeches to various public groups. Writers groups and co-ops like BookView Café. Newsletters. Book reviews. Skywriting. The Chain Story Project. Who knows what else?

You can’t do them all. You wouldn’t want to. So choose what you can keep up with. There’s nothing worse than getting going and then finding that it’s a terrible drag, a drain on your psychic energy you need to write.

Most of all, find the balance you need between the writing and producing of product and promoting it. VIPub, gang, VIPub.

More of what Pari had to say in a later blog.

Last Stage to Vipub August 18, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in Chain story, e-books, ideas, iPad, VIPub, westerns, writing.
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I just posted this to the members of the Western Fictioneers. OMG, I am beginning to sound like Mike Stackpole. Maybe some of the e-tide will flow through the western fiction market. Here’s what I wrote:

I’ve been up to my ham hocks in work and just now have a second to
breathe. Wanted to put in a few words about e-publishing. A while back
I coined the term VIPub–Vertically Integrated Publishing–to reflect
how the world has changed. Livia is right that there are ebook thieves
out there but you simply cannot stop them. And for the most part, they
don’t really count. You have the ones that want to “collect the entire
set” and never read the books. Then there are those who will steal it
to read but probably wouldn’t have bought any of your books anyway.
Think of the stolen book as advertising. maybe they’ll buy something of
yours later (but probably not).

Part of this can be gotten around by sampling. Post the first few
chapters or have them available for free on your website or somewhere.
This works fairly well and those inclined to buy can browse, decide and
likely give you a few bucks.

Dusty, you’re right about publishers being able to steal us blind with
ebooks. There is a lot of ink (well, electrons) spent discussing this.
And the publishers can be cheated by the sellers easily, too. If
Amazon doesn’t report sales to Berkley, who’s to know? Not like you can
count the units, after all. There has to be some trust involved at that
level (I remember 40 yrs ago when Ace published books by authors and
never even told them! Only a SFWA audit revealed how AA Wynn was
ripping off everyone.)

Here is where the world shifts on its axis. VIPub. We have to write
the books, edit them, get covers for them, publish them, market them,
sell them and then do all the accounting. We as authors have to do it
all since nobody else is going to have our interest in our work–and our
money. Sell an ebook off your own website and you know the sales count
is honest. I do this. I also deal with a Canadian publisher for iTunes
and iPad (and Kobobooks) who has shown he’s a decent guy and an honest
one. I put my own books up on Kindle (which is a constant battle with
Amazon). The difference in doing this is pretty substantial with their
70% royalty to the author (only 50% from iTunes/iPad). Compare that to
the 17.5% of the *net* you get from a print publisher selling your ebooks.

I also do some POD books. It might not be the cheapest but I’ve had
good luck with Lighting Source (which is owned by Ingrams) since this
puts my books out on Espresso Book Machines as well as on Amazon and
into the Ingrams catalog. If I were so inclined, I could let LS do the
ebooks, too, but they take a big cut just like a major publisher.

At this point nobody’s going to get rich off ebooks (well, some claim
they are) but the way I look at it if I make $20 a month, that’s found
money. the books I have up on iPad and Kindle and elsewhere are all
reverted and would be gathering dust or cosmic rays otherwise. It’s
like seeing a dollar bill on the sidewalk. Do you pick it up or let the
wind blow it away? Your call. I’ll pick it up every time since I’ll be
a dollar richer.

The publicity part is hardest (well, so is getting a cover–artists are
a tricky bunch to work with. You’d think they were writers or
something. 😎 ) In sf there are a lot of ways of approaching it but
I’m not sure any would work well with westerns. How many western
readers have e-readers? I think Dorchester going e will be a major
boost since they do so many romances–the rom readers will have to use
e-readers if they want their fix of boy meets girl (or vampire meets
girl). This expands the base for ebooks and lowers e-reader costs.

One scheme that has worked in sf is the Chain Story project
http://chainstory.stormwolf.com Give away stories with the intent of
driving readers to your website. Scavange other writers’ readers and
hope to convert them to your work, too. The CSP is getting 30k unique
hits a month and is growing about 5% a month. It’s upped unique visits
to my sf website by 2x.

The future–actually, the present–for VIPub is electronic, do our own
work, keep the bulk of the (admittedly lesser) money ourselves and use
POD to add print copies, if necessary. (Another schema is to do e, then
a limited edition print, say 100 copies. Collectors are a strange breed
and apart from mere readers.)

In the sf arena we’ve been kicking all this around for close to 2 years
so there’s a huge amount of arguments to be made and things to be
discussed, but the upshot is we’ve got to do it.

My 2 cents.